It was Halloween, 2000. Portland, Maine. The Ballroom dancers were swirling around the dance floor, but in the middle of the dance floor were two people in unusual costumes. The costume that I remember was all green, silk leaves clinging to the skin-tight leotard…I can’t remember now whether it was the man or the woman wearing the leaves!!! Regardless, that person was like a tree moving in the wind. The tree was moving with her partner in a way that made me say…”What ARE they dancing?”
I asked who those folks were…and learned that it was Robin Tara (of Tara tango shoe “fame”). Her dance partner, Javier Bucher…who had just come to Maine from Rosario, Argentina. What they were dancing was Argentine tango. Javier was going to be teaching the first class of Argentine tango in Portland, Maine.
I had seen Forever Tango on Broadway years earlier, but stage tango, with women being flipped upside down by their older dance partners made me distance myself from such a dance at the time…as much as I enjoyed watching the show!
I arrived at the Javier’s first class, at the Cultural Center on Congress Street, in Portland. Music was playing. TANGO MUSIC was playing!! It was like the smell of a wonderful meal that I was about to taste. Somehow the music made more of an impact on me when I could focus on it and not a stage performance.
We were told that all we were going to do was learn to walk to the music. I didn’t care WHAT I was going to do to the music, as long as the music continued to play. It was the music that spoke to me. Eventually, it was the human touch, the connection, the intense listening to music and, much later, the lyrics that hooked me. I was trained since the age of 4 in classical piano, and what I heard was classical music…haunting, emotional, achingly wonderful music, played on instruments which I recognized: piano, violin, and an instrument which sounded like an accordion, whose name I didn’t know at the time: the bandoneon.
Javier had been trained in ballet and was a stickler for technique. Thank you, Universe, for bringing Javier to cold, snowy Portland, Maine, from the southern hemisphere…He brought his personal warmth, wonderful lessons in how to BE a dancer of tango (not necessarily to learn “tango steps”) , and created a small tango community which, under his tutelage, started taking ‘baby steps’ toward learning this passionate dance.
I spent many hours practicing the tango walk along Scarborough beach, where I lived. I’d put on my headphones with my walkman playing Di Sarli, and would walk backwards along the shore, at 6 AM. I’d walk forward, too, practicing my “whoosh” on the first beat. At that hour, there were only the dogs who were allowed to go off leash, and their owners. While I was into the music and the movement, the dogs and their owners were into their own kind of dance, minding their own business.
After many group classes, many private lessons, and many hours of practice, I was thrilled to have a guest teacher come to visit our tango community from Buenos Aires: Omar Vega, teacher of milonga traspie par excellence.
That same year, Pablo Veron came to teach in Boston. A two-hour drive to Boston flew by.
In 2002, when I moved to Boulder, Colorado, who came to teach 5 minutes from my home at the dance studio on Pearl Street? Omar Vega!!! Two years into my tango journey, I traveled with a tango friend to Umbria, Italy, to participate in a workshop led by El Indio (Pedro Benavente, from Buenos Aires) in a convent, of all places, in Todi, Italy. In 2003, I was delighted to attend Tango Fireworks in Long Beach, California, where the most amazing array of notable tangueros and tangueras, milongueros and milongueras, came to teach and perform: Gustavo Naveira and Giselle Anne, Milena Plebs and Ezequiel Farfaro, Carlos Copello and Jorgelina Guzzi, Gloria and Eduardo Arquimbau, Julio Balmaceda and Corina De La Rosa, Aurora Lubiz and Jorge Firpo, Diego Di Falco and Carolina Zokalski.
By far, though, the best teachers have been the milongueros at the milongas in Buenos Aires. I feel blessed to have traveled to Buenos Aires many times. On my second trip to Buenos Aires, I took classes with Carina Mele and Carlos Costes. During another trip, technique class with Graciela Gonzalez was another feather in my cap! The techniques I learned are still embedded in my body.
Tango is an inward journey that takes me to places of the heart and soul. Tango is a mood enhancer…if I feel “down”, I turn on tango music. When I connect with my partner and surrender to the music and move as one being, it is a transcendent experience.
Vera Berv from USA