Cortina time, before a Pugliese tanda. The DJ played the first minute of a cumbia. I sat back. Well, ok, I was seated already. Unexpectedly, some people began dancing on the cumbia. Or, more precisely, to move their bodies to the music, sort of
. The DJ noticed
, returned back to his laptop and played the whole cumbia. By then, almost one third of the people here had gathered on the dance floor for this recreative moment after all the A.T's drama and seriousness. ("Come on! It's easy!)
The DJ felt
that the audience was not ready yet for Pugliese, and played another cumbia. Once again people danced on it enthousiastically, if not skilfully. (Well, who am I to say that, I know nothing about cumbia, maybe it actually has to be danced the chaotic way).
"What now?", I thought, how will the DJ get out of this and put people back on the right track? He achieved this by playing a third cumbia, a much faster and longer
one. Half of the people on the floor realized at once that they could not follow this and went back to their tables, the other half soon gave up, and the last minute of the cumbia was played for a 100%-sat audience, ready now for some smooth Pugliese.
The exercise was to lead without any contact. The arms around the partner, abrazo-alike.
After a while my follower called the teacher:
"How can I follow, if he's not touching me?"
The old argentine maestro asked her to close her eyes. Then he raised his hand, placing the palm
very near to her cheek.
"I'm not touching you. But you feel the warmth of my hand, don't you?. Now I'm moving my hand." The girl moved slowly, following the hand, trying to preserve the sensation of warmth.
"See, you can do it. Try again with Pablo." And he moved on. Old argentine maestros are
sometimes like Zen masters, not explaining anything but putting you in the right track.
This happened six months ago. And during this class we all were concerned, because we knew that three days later the maestro would have to face major surgery. Lung cancer, no big surprise for a lifelong smoker. I was not too sure how to behave at the end of the class. Saying something like "Don't worry, it's a routine operation", or on the opposite "Well, maestro, I'll never forget this last class with you..." ? Finally I said nothing special and just gave the usual shake-hand to the 80-year old bailarin
Time passed. Once in a while the A.T magazines would mention him "...and our fond wishes for a speedy recovery..."
. After all he had always been there, for more than 20 years. Half of our A.T teachers had been trained by him at some point of their cursus, even if the general opinion was that by now he was overtaken as a teacher. Indeed I often found it irritating when he was unable to demonstrate twice the same sequence, always changing something after a few steps. "Sorry, I just followed the music...". And sure, he danced more slowly than most of the young teachers in town, but for musicality he was second to none. Everybody liked him.
But now it was over. His partner kept giving classes four times a week, and organizing the milonga on sundays, but I never attended.
A few weeks ago he was the honoured guest during a big milonga. Everyone duly went to his
table to congratulate him. Before demos, all performing couples mentioned how influential he had been to them. He was all smiles, glad to see familiar faces again. He cheerfully took both my hands when I greeted him, and took time to answer all my questions, despite I'm just a random pupil of his. He has not fully recovered and can't dance yet, but he's confident he'll be back soon.
I'm happy he made it.
Here is a typical e-mail exchange between the sensible me and my womanish class partner for the tuesday A.T. group class. Or so-called class partner, as she has missed quite a few classes this year."Hi Pablo,About tomorrow's class, I'm afraid I can't make it. Sorry. I'll mail you when I'll know for next week's class. There is a milonga monday. We'll go there, won't we?Have a nice week. Kisses."
On monday our teacher also gives a class; the level is nearly the same that our own. Don't you think it would be a better move to go there ? It would compensate for the class we'll be missing tomorrow [I don't go when she doesn't, as the class is otherwise balanced.]
Plus, I already went with you to the milonga last month, and I hit a few people's ankles with my heels. It was only one month ago, they will remember, and won't be too happy to see me coming back. [I cautiously did not mention last week's milonga, where I went without her and danced all night with a close friend of hers; this would have been asking for extra trouble]. Here is the schedule and the address of the class...""I do prefer the milonga. I don't have that many chances to go out!!!
[her exclamation marks]. It makes no sense taking one monday class when we did not attend any up to now. And this monday some friends of mine will come and they want to see some tango and they don't dance and a milonga has a bar so it will be a more friendly place for them than a class. Come to me if you disagree, and we'll speak!
[her exclamation mark]. Sorry again for missing tomorrow's class.Kisses."
"Ok, let's go to the milonga, then."