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.