Tango: my life as a not-so-good leader

And you thought that YOU were the worst dancer in the world ?

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Carlos Gavito, special guest of CITA 2004

Confortably relaxing in your armchair, in front of your DVD player, you're looking at a video of one CITA event. (a DVD duly bought through the official Cosmotango.com site, needless to say)
One after the other, the best performers in the world are frantically doing
jumps, kicks, hooks, turns, lifts, so quickly that you have to concentrate just to visually follow what's happening.
Then suddenly, as a new performer appears at the edge of the screen, you frown: what's the trouble with this damn DVD player, the slow motion function gets activated without my pushing any button of the remote controller!
Not so. The man now on stage is Carlos Gavito, and this man is never in a hurry when he dances tango. One minute later, he's near his partner. Two minutes later the abrazo is here. If the tango song is long enough, Carlos and his partner will reach the "four" of the 8CB.

The 75 year old Gavito is one of the Gods of tango. One of the most famous. One of the most expensive, also: 150 dollars for a private. (Number one remains Pablo Veron, with 200 dollars for 45 minutes...)

During my stay in Buenos-Aires, I had the honour and privilege to attend one of his (group...) classes.
Here is how it went:

The ladies were still wondering which taxi-boy was their, whan Gavito asked (ordered, by the way) us to stay quiet and invited us to have a seat. Then he began to speak, speak...

"I will not teach you steps and steps and steps. You have many teachers here who will take care of that. I will teach you tango (...)
Nobody here in this class, nobody, is that young any more. Far away is the time of your youth, when, looking above your head, you could see a rising sun and a blue sky. Next time you looked, the sun had already declined,
and some dark, frightening shadows were there; and by now, at your age, you're even afraid of looking up, because you know the night will come soon, you know that the end of your life, the only one life you had, is near. And you think of all these things that you wanted to get, and did never get, and will never get. All this things you wanted to do, and did never do, and will never do. You think of all the painful losses you've suffered, all the dear friends you lost. All this, is what you have to put in your tango (...)"

After an hour or so of these depressing words, and seeing that we were falling asleep on our chairs, he made us stand up and began to teach us the tango walk. Pointing at an north-american guy, he asked him to make a few forward steps. The poor fellow duly did what he had been taught to
do by all his tango teachers: feet on one line, toes touching the floor before the heels, brush, and so on.
Gavito affected a puzzled face:
"- What are you doing there ? Skating ? Walk like a man! Like a man!", and then showed a few cow-boy steps, to exemplify his words.

For sure, this man is not on par with his fellow tango teachers, who usually try to be kind with their students, and to encourage them ("Good, very good! It might indeed be even better if you did this..."). Yet, If some day, once the rent paid I still have 150 dollars, I'm not sure I'll spend them in a private with him.

As a Special Guest of CITA 2004, Gavito had to organize a so-called "night of the milongueros" at Sunderland, a kind of old neon-lighted warehouse, usually used for basket-ball championships, but where the portenos over 70 years (a.k.a the milongueros) have their habits.
He took the microphone and began another endless speech, with brief introductions of the performers (such big names as Duplaa, Pocho, and of course Gavito himself)

"(...) When Fabian [Salas] asked me to organize this night of the milongueros, I realized that this would be an enormous responsibility, something for which only an outstanding man could be up to the task. I don't know if I've been up to the task..."

Here Gavito stopped for a while, his hand on the heart, expecting the audience to burst into applauses ("Hail Gavito!", "Yee-ahh!", "Gavito for president!" and so on), but as the public remained silent he continued:
"This is a night you will remember! This is a night that will not look like any of the other CITA nights you already attended. Believe me..."
At this very moment a power failure occurred and the milonga fell into darkness for a few minutes. Fabian took advantage of it to steal the microphone, and when the light came back he
demonstratively thanked Gavito, and presented him an award, signed by all the big names.

The image I'll keep from him is the moment when, at the end of his class, a group of harpies, sorry, of american ladies sollicited him for some photos-souvenir. He agreed gracefully, and with an infinite patience, let himself be photographed with each of them, pretending to dance, of having their fat arms around his neck, happy to please them and keeping a broad, childish smile.

posted by Pablo  # 8:01 AM
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